Brdi project: production complete!

 

Brdi if finally in full production with packaging, it’s ready to ship. The last step in the Brdi production process is finishing. We recently visited Teknicote in Rhode Island, our powder coating partner. It’s an interesting process – the colored material arrives in the form of a fine powder, about the same consistency as flour. Once the parts are cleaned and dried, they arrive by conveyer to the spray coating area. The parts are grounded with a negative charge, the colored powder has a positive charge – so the powder is magnetically attracted to each part. There is almost no waste material in the process, with very little effort required to fully and evenly coat each piece. More important: there are no fumes or environmental emissions like those from a traditional ‘wet’ painting process.

Once evenly coated, the parts enter an oven for about 15 minutes, 5 minutes of cooling down and the parts are fully cured, 100% hardened, ready to touch and pack. The entire journey takes about an hour from raw part to finished piece. In the end, it’s a very hard, durable finish.

It’s very exciting to be at this stage – hard to believe that Brdi was a cardboard and tape model only 6 months ago.

Brdi project: Pepperell Braiding

 

We took a trip to the Pepperell Braiding Company located in Pepperell, MA; the producers of the cord that will be included with Brdi. I came across them several months ago and have been looking for way to work with them ever since. Like most 100+ year old factories, Pepperell Braiding has produced many different products in their lifetime;  they have been producing braided cord since the late 1800′s. This is our favorite kind of factory – unique, authentic, high quality and of course, within 100 miles.

They still use their original machinery from the late 1800′s, which were in full operation with most of the machines running, making everything from candle wicks to necklace paracord. Unlike the automated CNC punch press from the last update, these machines are completely open, their processes are 100% visible. It’s mesmerizing to watch, made even more fascinating by the fact that it’s all happening on post-Civil War era machines.

 

Brdi project: ready for production

 

I had a chance to review the final pre-production parts on Brdi last week; there is nothing quite like parts fresh off the machine. They will be produced on an Amada EM2510NT turret pouch press belonging to our new friends at Apahouser Inc. in Marlbough, MA. Its a huge, $60K beast capable of punching 3000 holes per minute (ALOT of holes) in a 9′ X 12′ sheet with 30 or so different tools in the turret. With the addition of a material handling system (for loading sheets and removing finished parts), it can run all night with the lights out – no operator oversight.

The Amada is a lot like a laser printer for holes in sheet metal, and like a laser printer, it’s fully automated, moves lightning fast. Metal goes in, lots of 3000-hole-per-minute noise, finished parts come out. In the era of ever faster, fully automated, digitally controlled manufacturing, most of these machines are becoming ‘black boxes’, surrounded by guards to keep hands out of high speed tool changes and cutting/punching action, obscuring the magic of tools in the process of forming parts.

Interesting to watch, but I have to say I do miss the drama.